Tiger Force

A commenter asked my opinion about the "Tiger Force" controversy.  As it happened I had given my opinion some time ago to a correspondent.  I don’t believe that I posted this on the blog.

Pat LangTigerpatches

From: Patrick Lang [ismoot@turcopolier.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:22 PM
To: ‘Michael Keyes’
Subject: RE: Tiger Force

Attachments: tigercrest.jpg

Dr. Keyes

Yes.  I have read it.  As it happens the "Newshour" once asked me to research the "Tiger Force" because their media reporter wanted to make a fuss over the series that had been written for a Cleveland or Cincinnati newspaper and for which they had received a journalism prize.  After looking at this my conclusion was, and is that the story has been sensationalized and exaggerated wildly and irresponsibly.

The unit in question was the reconnaissance platoon of a line infantry battalion of the 101st Division.  The battalion was 1/327 Infantry Regiment.  A VN airmobile infantry battalion had four rifle companies, and a headquarters company.  The rifle companies had around 150 men each most of the time and the headquarters company had in it the battalion mortar platoon, headquarters and signal people and the battalion reconnaissance platoon with around 35 men commanded by a lieutenant.  The function of this platoon was to scout around, do reconnaissance and perform force protection for the battalion by patrolling out around the battalion so that surprise would not occur.  You may know that in the Army the commander of any ground reconnaissance unit is always referred to as "Tiger."  I have attached the unofficial and unauthorized breast patch that these men devised for themselves.  The members of the platoon were ordinary airborne infantrymen of the VN War period.  They were paratroopers.  The 101st in VN was an airmobile division not a paratroop division but there was one brigade in it that was on "jump status."  Nobody in the battalion was a Special Forces or Special Operations soldier.  This platoon was not a special anything.

The number 120 as to the number of people involved is highly misleading.  The platoon numbered maybe a third of that.  But in VN rotations were continual both back to the states and to other units in the battalion and division.  This unit was probably a desired location for enlisted people since these 35 men and their lieutenant were pretty much at liberty to wander around the area of operations of the battalion.  Soldiers like being in small units on detached duty believing correctly that they are more likely to escape from fatigue details and the close supervision of senior sergeants and officers.  As a result they seek this kind of duty.  Given the opportunity, junior soldiers will always describe their duties in the "sexiest" possible terms.  Would they say that their platoon was "special?"  You bet they would, then and subsequently to anyone who would listen.

It seems likely that the battalion commander during the period under discussion (along with the intelligence and operations staff of the battalion) at the very least failed to exercise adequate supervision over the recon platoon and that the members of the platoon committed various excesses against the Vietnamese population of the province in which they were located.  So far as I know, the misdeeds of this little unit were limited to a four month period.  This probably corresponds to the period of command of a particular battalion CO.  These command tours were normally six months long.  I do not know if the misdeeds of this recon platoon were ever reported to division.  Both battalion and brigade commanders would have been reluctant to report this kind of thing if it they discovered it and it reflected on them.  In particular, the brigade commander present after a battalion change of command would have been vulnerable to a charge of neglect of duty which would have ended his career.

So…  There is no evidence that this was other than an isolated incident involving a failure of leadership in that brigade.  American troops did not wander the countryside molesting the Vietnamese.  I was there and I know that to be true.

There was nothing "special" about this little unit and its deeds or crimes were indicative of nothing that could be described as general behavior.

As for investigative action, the 101st left that part of Vietnam a year or so later and the division had left VN altogether by 1972 when I arrived back in country for my last tour.  When was the investigation?  Think about it.  What could have been done by then?


W. Patrick Lang
—–Original Message—–
From: Michael Keyes [mailto:mikeyes@charter.net]
Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 11:18 AM
To: ismoot@turcopolier.com
Subject: Tiger Force

COL Lang,

I have been a big fan of your blog for some time now and find myself agreeing with most of what you have to say about the war in Iraq and the military in general (which I suppose is a good thing if I am to continue to enjoy the blob <G>.)  I am retired from the reserve (COL USAR MC) and find that I still have a fierce interest and, to some extent, loyalty to those who taught me about the military and the military forces in general. (I was active duty Navy during VN, and Army during Desert
Storm.)  So I come into this question with an open mind:

Have you read this article:


and what is your opinion of it?

Michael J. Keyes, MD

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36 Responses to Tiger Force

  1. W. Patrick Lang says:

    For all those who wish, oh so desperately, that the behavior of this platoon or Calley’s platoon were typical, why is it that there not many more such stories reported in the media? pl

  2. Dan says:

    Not that it’s important, but it was the Toledo Blade. They won the 2004 pulitzer for investigative reporting. The alleged crimes were said to have taken place between May and November of 1967.

  3. different clue says:

    I think it was the Toledo
    Blade of Toledo, Ohio, which
    ran the Tiger Force stories.
    But that’s just my memory….

  4. different clue says:

    I believe these stories
    ran in the Toledo Blade of
    Toledo Ohio, to the best of
    my memory.
    (I think I forgot to put
    my name email on my just-earlier attempt to send this).

  5. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    Strange to be talking about Tiger Force today.
    I would like to draw your attention to a speech made at McGill University by Sy Hersh on Monday.
    I hope for once that Sy Hersh has got it wrong.
    Quote: “There has never been an American army as violent and murderous as the one in Iraq”
    “If Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans, Hersh said.”
    url: [http://www.mcgilldaily.com/view.php?aid=5450

  6. Wombat says:

    For the same reason that it took decades for the Tiger Platoon story to come out?
    “I do not know if the misdeeds of this recon platoon were ever reported to division. Both battalion and brigade commanders would have been reluctant to report this kind of thing if it they discovered it and it reflected on them. In particular, the brigade commander present after a battalion change of command would have been vulnerable to a charge of neglect of duty which would have ended his career.”
    As you write above, there are reasons why atrocities may be covered up.

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It has been 35 years. Do you seriously maintain that the people involved would have held their peace all this time? pl

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I happen to know Hersh well. He exagerates constantly, overstates his sources and is rather gullible. pl

  9. wcw says:

    All true — but Hersh does have good sources now and again, and is able and willing to break stories others can’t or won’t. Abu Ghraib springs to mind. It did happen, as he reported, down to the rapes caught on video.
    Feel free to delete this yet again, but do drop me a note: I get the impression that my comments never, ever get through. While often critical, you accept much more-critical ones. If you have something against my comments for whatever reason, please drop me a private email and ask nicely. I promise not only never to comment again, but also never to read your site again, if you prefer. All I ask is the favor of a polite, personal request.

  10. oreo10 says:

    I may have witnessed one of these groups when I served as the fire team leader of helicopter gunships for the First Infantry Division. They were called the “First of the Ninth” and were based in the Phu Loi base camp in 1968.
    This comment is only to reflect a personal story that may help illuminate some behaviors in such groups; I have no knowledge of, or wish to suggest knowledge of, the behavior of other such groups.
    My company was on the east side of the airfield, theirs on the west, but I recall the patch they wore. They had groups called LRRPs, Long Range Recon Patrols, that went out and often got horribly engaged, which was where I came in, having to go rescue them when their own gun teams were not enough, which happened several times.
    One of their adventures was to go into Saigon shortly after the Tet Offensive. The patrol was trapped in a creek in a relatively open area. Even after their own gun teams had expended, they were calling us for more fire. My team was asked to fire rockets and miniguns within 20 feet of the creek they were in. After an all-night mission using slicks and gunships we got most, or all, of them home. They later returned to the same sort of combat.
    My enduring thought from that experience was that they were some seriously crazy guys. Then again, many of us over there were.

  11. Walrus says:

    With the greatest of respect WCW, the reason I keep visiting this website is because of the levels of trust I feel regarding what is posted here.
    Most of it, if not all of it, stacks up with my (limited) experience, even to some of what others may regard as unimportant detail(which is really important and I’m not saying which bits either, Got a Watch).
    It will be interesting to see if Mr. Hersh puts up or shuts up.

  12. arbogast says:

    I honestly wonder what people think happens in war.
    Like most Americans I have been regaled with blow by blow descriptions of a great deal of what the Nazi’s did to the Jews during WWII. Uniformed soldiers did it, so it comes under the heading of war.
    But, if you have a moment, read La Nouvelle Justine by the Marquis de Sade. It’s the Nazi’s playbook.
    My point is that war is war. Unimaginably bad things happen. The human propensity for cruelty is a constant, not a variable.
    The goal is to not have wars. Sometimes that is impossible.
    But, as Colonel Lang’s posts have made absolutely, perfectly clear, Iraq is not one of those times. Everything else is irrelevant.

  13. anna missed says:

    Col Lang is (perhaps) right in the contention that events like the Tiger Force escapade or My Lai fall well outside the SOP of unit operations in Vietnam. And that they reflect grossly inaccurate as to the general conduct of the field troops in Vietnam — In no way can these actions be construed as typical. However, judging from my own personal experience in Vietnam (as a grunt), I was witness to numerous particular Geneva violations, some of which I would consider egregious. These events happened for the most part, in the context of heavy combat, as opposed to normal AO operations. Which brings up a significant distinction in understanding the diferential between rogue behavior generally, and combat related rogue behavior. The former, as Col Lang points out, was indeed rogue and aberrant. The latter, I’m afraid, was if not somewhat typical, happened with enough frequency — across the entire breath and depth of the war — to have achieved a certain iconic status to the behavior of U.S. troops in that war. A pattern for which, can be seen repeating itself in the Iraq war. And should in this day and age, always and must, be pre-considered as the NORM for guerrilla type 4thGW military police action wars.

  14. Cloned Poster says:

    Great website here PL. The horror of war rings true.

  15. different clue says:

    I think a lot of what the
    specialized Nazi Party organs did to the Jews during WWII was not done by
    uniformed soldiers on the
    front in battle, but rather
    was done in Nazi Occupied
    areas after the battles had
    been won and the taken-areas
    had been secured.
    I think the Slave Labor
    bureaucracy and the Gas
    Chamber bureaucracy were
    separate and apart from the
    uniformed German army.
    The Nazi Holocaust of Jews,
    and Gypsies too, lets not
    forget, was not a part of
    the German combat operations. It was purely
    art-for-art’s-sake. So does
    it really make a good example of bad things which
    happen in war?
    (I write as a civilian with
    no military experience and
    almost no knowledge of military history. Maybe
    someone else here with the
    knowledge can give examples
    of atrocities happening on
    a battlefront as part of
    combat by way of showing the
    bad things which happen in
    war? Would the killing of
    many Korean refugees at No
    Gun Ri because American soldiers couldn’t tell which
    of them might be North Korean soldiers in refugee
    disguise, be an example of
    atrocious things done during combat itself?)

  16. arbogast says:

    I believe someone once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
    [Which reminds me of the line from Elvis’ Now and Then There’s a Fool Such as I: “Someone once said, “All the world’s a stage””]
    In any case, Richard Fye is clearly the wittiest among us. However, I would prefer to see him elaborate on his remark, simply to illuminate it for the less witty.

  17. arbogast says:

    I sincerely don’t think that “higher-ups” in the military give much of a damn about what goes on in the field as long as a) they have enough troops, b) they themselves don’t have to go to the field, and c) they’re winning.
    Obviously, there are exceptions. I think of Eisenhower. But the military beauracracy is no different from any other.
    But Cardona’s physical well-being was not the only issue of concern connected to his aborted transfer to Iraq. According to former senior U.S. military officers and others interviewed by TIME, sending a convicted abuser back to Iraq to train local police would have sent the wrong signal at a time when the U.S. is trying to bolster the beleaguered government in Baghdad, where the horrors of Abu Ghraib are far from forgotten.

  18. Frank Durkee says:

    Col. Would you please put in context the Editorial slated for Monday from the four services indepenednt newspapers callin for Rummy’s [ we are classmates ] resignation? How does one ‘read’ this?

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The four papers belong to the same company.
    They are reflecting a general discontent with Rumsfeld among military people, but it signifies little since the decider still likes him.
    To get rid of Rumsfeld would imply failure in the policy he has carried out… pl

  20. JT Davis says:

    I commend Col. Lang for addressing this subject now. This is a dialogue that we should be having at this time. Our nation desperately needs matters such as this aired. I respect the good Colonel’s position. His is one of the best blogs on the net. I hope we can keep this civil. He has earned that.

  21. JT Davis says:

    And it was the Toledo Blade that did a Pulitzer prize winning series in 2004.
    I was surprised to learn recently of two alleged incidents involving Patton’s troops in Italy during WWII, one of which involved women and children.
    The Canicatti Slaughter and the Biscari Massacre.

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Your assumption about other large atrocities is just that. it has no more validity than my assumption. pl

  23. David All says:

    Thanks for the info on Tiger Force. I have not read the book, just the description of it on the front & end jacket. Had the feeling that it description of what Tiger Force did was exxagerated. Thanks, Col. Lang for confirming that.
    Seymour Hersh has been pretty erratic in recent years. Sometimes accurate, a lot of times, not. If he has evidence of American atrocities in Iraq, why does not show them to Americans, instead of Canadians?

  24. David All says:

    Thanks for the info on Tiger Force. I have not read the book, just the description of it on the front & end jacket. Had the feeling that it description of what Tiger Force did was exxagerated. Thanks, Col. Lang for confirming that.
    Seymour Hersh has been pretty erratic in recent years. Sometimes accurate, a lot of times, not. If he has evidence of American atrocities in Iraq, why does not show them to Americans, instead of Canadians?

  25. canuck says:

    Congratulations, it looks like Senator Webb has won in Virginia.
    Veterans often don’t talk about what they did in combat. It was only recently that I found out my Royal Marine stepfather hunted for scientists in Germany for MI5. I can count on one hand, the number of times he spoke about his contribution. To look at him, one would think there was nothing unusual about him…that would have been a mistake. We found pictures of him with his commanding officer, Ian Fleming. Not once did he mention it despite how popular 007 movies were.
    A return to normality with a Democratic majority in the Legislature and a Republican President.
    Topping the list of objectives should be the return of habeas corpus, then I’ll know for sure that sanity has returned.

  26. Ralph Hitchens says:

    I was asked to review Tiger Force for Vietnam magazine, & my review was just published in the December issue (which may be available online soon, at thehistorynet.com). My conclusion was that the platoon leader & his team leaders instigated a series of small-scale atrocities over a period of months, operating with limited supervision from their company commander, who was in charge of HHC of 1/327. Both this officer and the battalion exec blew off reports from soldiers in or attached to the platoon, and no one at HHC or battalion HQ thought to enquire about the embarrassing disparity between reported enemy casualties and the small number of weapons recovered. The two journalists from the Toledo Blade who wrote the Pulitzer-winning series (later turned into the book) know virtually nothing about the military or the war; their only goal is to accuse the Army of a top-down coverup. Sadly, they can’t produce any proof that knowledge of these incidents was elevated up the chain of command, and despite the best efforts of a dedicated CID investigator, the JAG had nothing useful to take into court, although they did seriously consider bringing charges against the platoon leader and the HHC commander. About all one can conclude is that this was a failure of leadership not unlike My Lai and many other incidents in US military history.

  27. Michael(Mickey) J. Allums says:

    I was an RVN in-country transfer, from the 9th Pathfinder Detachment, 9th Infantry Division, to Tiger Force, from May 1967, until January 1968.
    1st Bde. was on jump status,I received 55 dollars a month extra for jump pay. The rest of the 101st was still in Fort Campbell, Ky. and under- going the change to become Airmobile. I was there during the period investigated by the “Blade”. I have not read the book on Tigers, only an extract from chapter one.I did not witness any atrocities. After the Air Force dropped leaflets in villages, stating for them to be at a place, on a certain day, to be re-located to a new village, then we were told to patrol thru, and look for signs of VC. We burned the village to the ground, in order to expose any spider holes or tunnels. On one occation, I was called forward, with my M-79, 40mm Grenade Launcher, to fire a round thru the window of a hootch where a black pajama clad person ran into. After the round exploded, the person stumbled out the door, and collapsed. We checked, it was an old lady. We wondered why she stayed behind. Speculation was that perhaps a relative of hers was VC. We Were told by higher chain of command, to consider all people in the area to be hostile. All the villagers had been re-located, and this was VC country. Please go to the web site; tigerforcerecon and read entries in the guestbook.
    Thanks for your time. Mick

  28. Jean Soucy says:

    I was interviewed by the blade but had no horror stories for them. I spent the entire time the 1/327 was in Song Ve Valley. First with Cobra Company, then with Tiger Force. I left the Tigers when I was wounded in Chu Lai in August 1967. As I understood the Relocation Program, it was an RVN Government program, They dropped leaflets and did the Loudspeaker announcements to Leave the Area. Most did, and we helped them Move by Air and Land and even conducted a large cattle drive to move their Water Buffullo out. The Area was severely bombed and defoiliated, and we returned. Everyone in that Valley after June 1967 was VC or VC supporters. We were still getting Wounded and Killed in Song Ve Valley in June and July 1967 by the stay behinds. It is regrettable if any innocent was killed by a choice they made to stay when the duly recognized government of RVN had told them to relocate, temporarily, and the good villagers could return to their ancesteral lands, once the VC were removed. Also we had Regular Army of RVN (ARVN) Soldiers and Civillian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), These were Local citizen/Farmer/Soldiers who were basically local Reservists who farmed and defended there hamlets, working with us.
    I saw No attrosities, absolutely no Necklaces of ears, in that heat unthinkable to keep peices of flesh, No Scalps.

  29. W. Patrick Lang says:


  30. Jean Soucy says:

    A Comment on The Organization of Tiger Force and why it was so large. The Bn Cdr and S-3’s intention was to have a 4th Rifle Company. The Battalion TO&E was three Companies and an HHC at the Time. So You had the Recon Platoon, combined with the Anti-Tank Platoon. No Armor threat. No where to drive the Jeeps in the Field, so the AT Jeeps went to staff and the Platoon dismounted with Recon Platoon. Add Medics, Artillary FO’s, Engineers, sometimes Intepreters a Dog Team and a Photographer, you have a Large Unit. A lot of soldiers new to Tigers were confused that we had Two Platoon Leaders and Two Platoon Sergeants authorized, but it was because we combined two Platoons. Both of which were larger than a Rifle Company Platoon, so togeather we were almost as large as a Rifle Company. Sometimes the HHC XO or an Asst S-2 or Asst S-3 would come out also.
    We were Paratroops, on Jump Status, Pay jumps were waived, We drew Jump PayWe belonged to the 1st Brigade,(Seperate) 101st Airborne Division from Jul 1965 to at Least January 1968. That was when the Rest of the Division arrived. We were attached to the Americal Division during Mai Lai which was in the Same Province as Song Ve Valley. I heard the same tired “War Stories” over and over,sometimes the same one 3 Times at the NCO club in the same night, by three different people. Those “War Stories” have come back to haunt some people. They have told them so long they have come to beleive them.
    When William Calley got busted you sure did not hear many “War Stories”, Not for Decades anyway.

  31. Hank says:

    Weiss and Salah exagerated, and made up someof the stroy, that is for sure.
    Tiger Force was made up of highly experienced soldiers from the line companies, as well as experienced individuals from LRRPS, SF, Pathfinders, 101 Recondos, and other specially trained crews. We had dog handlers, Snipers, and numerous Rangers.
    Mr Lang’s statement is inaccurate.
    I spent hours and hours visiting with men who were present during the exact times concerned. I have reviewed official documents and even reviewed line by line, the book with the men who are in it. Most of the book is highly inaccurate, and some even made up. fictional at best. I wouldn’t wipe my ass on the Blade’s Pulitzer.

  32. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It was my intention to defend this unit from the attack on it in the “Blade.” Were you actually in this unit? Am I not correct in thinking that this was the recon platoon of 1/327 Inf? If that is so, then I would like to know why it had in it the kind of men that you describe. In particular, SF soldiers were in very short supply and were not usually released to duty with line troops. Is there a history of the unit, either official or unofficial? pl

  33. Jean Soucy says:

    Col Lang, I have a copy of the After Action Report of the Time from May to Nov 1967. Also a copy of the Transcripts of the Radio Logs. Both From the CID Investigations and the same that the Blade used. Nothing particularly damning. These are some of the same documents Hank has seen. The Radio Logs are just the Tiger Force Extracts so it looks like we are the only ones in the Valley, But all three Line Companies are also there, but not mentioned. If you look at the After Action Report you can see what the rest of the battalion did.
    Period 1 may to 10 Aug 1967, Body Counts from just Tiger Force Log: “66 Enemy KIA, 19 Weapons Captured. 184 Enemy PW and Suspects evacuated.”
    From the After Action Report for the entire Battalion: 178 Enemy KIA,35 Weapons Captured” that means the rest of the Battalion had 112 Enemy KIA and 16 Weapons Captured. I think we did better than the Battalion Average. Numbers are deceiving though. A lot of the dead are discovered until some time has past since the firefight, Many are killed by Indirect Fire, and Air strikes, so just because you report KIA’s does not mean you killed them. A lot of weapons were recovered by the Enemy. I see in the log where Tigers got credit for 20 KIA”s they were assisted by 2 Platoons of B Company. and the duplication of reports as diferent units discovered the same KIA’s.
    The most important document that I have seen was one I saw at SGM (Ret) Harold Trout’s house last week. The 1975 Letter from the Court Martial convening athority informing Trout and his Commander that ther was insufficient evidence to go to Court Martial and that witnesses by name were not credible and would be poor witnesses. These named individuals are the same ones The Authors name and believe are credible, 30 years Later.
    At the time I went to Tigers, you had to volenteer and go to a board, basically an interview. They preferred that you had some time in a Line unit first. Experienced soldiers was what they wanted. There were no SF folks there when I was, a Lot of us went to SF Later, but remember SF was Branch Immaterial in those days and you could be assigned outside SF and Viet nam was an “individual replacement” War. So it could happen, but they would be assigned to the unit (1/327) and have to Volenteer for Tiger Force.
    We were a strange mix of MOS’s, MP’s, Mortars, Anti-Tank. Heck, the “notorious Sam Ybara” so demonized by the Blade was a Commo wireman by MOS. Did you all catch that the Necklace he took from the Baby in the Article became a bracelet in the book.
    Keep up the good work, Jean Soucy

  34. Jean Soucy says:

    Yes, You’re correct in thinking The Tiger Force was in fact the Recon Platoon of the 1/327. Combined with the Anti Tank Platoon from 1965 to 1968. When it had the Airborne D Series TO&E. After the 1st BDE rejoined the Division around Jan 1968, the Battalion transitioned to the H Series and later J series Airmobile TO&E’s.
    Today the Recon Platoon of the 1st Bn 327th still goes by the name Tiger Force.
    Jean Soucy

  35. Angel says:

    I would like to find out if anyone new my uncle Joaquin Lares i don’t remember his rank but he was part of the 1/327 Tiger Force Recon A Co i want to say that was 1st Batt 327 Inf.If you have an photo’s as well. Thank you all so much for everything you have done. My Husband is in the 3/187 Delta Company Rakkasans here in Fort Campbell. You all are true hero’s again thank you so much!
    Angel Lares Isbell

  36. turcopolier says:

    The recon platoon, aka, the “Tiger Force,” was in Headquarters company, not A comnapy. pl

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